Because we–as a nation and as people–haven’t come to terms with all the intricacies of the legacy of slavery and how it continues to impact all of us–black, white, and everyone else–this particular elephant continues to lumber about in our living room.
My friend Jennifer Carr–national outreach director for Traces of the Trade, and a woman of color–passed along an article written by Ron Rosenbaum–author and columnist for the New York Observer and Slate, and a white guy–titled In Praise of Liberal Guilt: It’s not wrong to favor Obama because of race.
In it, he writes, “There are, of course, many reasons why whites might support Obama that have nothing to do with race. But what if redeeming our shameful racial past is one factor for some? Why delegitimize sincere excitement that his nomination and potential election would represent a historic civil rights landmark: making an abstract right a reality at last. Instead, their feeling must be disparaged as merely the result of a somehow shameful ‘liberal guilt.’”
And, “Guilt is good, people! The only people who don’t suffer guilt are sociopaths and serial killers. Guilt means you have a conscience. You have self-awareness, you have-in the case of America’s history of racism-historical awareness. Just because things have gotten better in the present doesn’t mean we can erase racism from our past or ignore its enduring legacy.”
Plus, “Of course, it’s not enough just to feel guilty or to act on guilt alone. But guilt can often spur us to deal with the enduring consequences of the injustices of the past and force us not to pretend there are none.”
I hope these quotes are enough to inspire you to read the whole column. Rosenbaum pokes the elephant with a stick hard enough to make us think more deeply about this stuff. I’m not saying he’s right and I’m not saying he’s wrong.
As usual, issues involving race aren’t simply black or white.